Choosing The Signal’s Athlete of the Year is no easy task, but certain moments throughout the year make the decision easier. One of those moments includes becoming a Sun Belt Conference champion, for the sixth time over. Another one is breaking a Georgia State record, one that she already owned, and breaking it again two more times.
Maybe the biggest moment of all was becoming an USTFCCCA All-American, especially when it’s the first time in university history. These moments are what made LaPorscha Wells the 2016-17 Athlete of the Year. Her All-American distinction is what sets her apart from the rest of the athletes, but to her, it’s not as big a deal as everyone else makes it.
“I think everybody else hypes it up so much, and I’m just like, thanks,” Wells said.
One would think the receiver of one of the most prestigious athletic accomplishments for a student-athlete would have a bit more of a joyous response, but that doesn’t mean she’s not grateful.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am so blessed, so so blessed,” Wells said. “I just don’t get that excited anymore.”
It is a very casual response to an award most athletes would die for, but a look into Wells’ past shines a light on this mindset.
Wells had her first experience with track and field back in elementary school. She participated in her school’s softball throw in fourth grade, an event that’s for kids or athletes with disabilities and uses similar rules to a javelin throw, but instead involves throwing an actual softball. It would be six more years before she competed again, beginning her legendary career her sophomore year at T.W. Josey High School.
“I would describe T.W. Josey as like an HBCU on a high school level,” Wells said.
Located in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, T.W. Josey opened back in 1964. Interestingly enough, the school was opened for only black students back then, as the country was still handling segregation at the time. That is part of the reason the school reminds Wells of an HBCU, but it is also because of the athletic program there.
“Not to knock any HBCUs or take anything away,” Wells said. “Track isn’t really a huge sport. They care more about football and basketball.”
Track wasn’t the biggest thing at T.W. Josey and in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the most significant thing to her. Outside of track meets and practices, Wells never thought about track much. She was happy when she won but that was it. She never cared about her margins of victory and the records and accomplishments that came with them.
“Honestly, I don’t even know if Josey had records, as far as track goes,” Wells said.
T.W. Josey has a record book for track and field, and Wells’ name is written all over it. She owns both the school’s shot put and discus records and second place behind her is not even close. Wells set the discus record during the Class AAA Section East when she threw for 112 feet and 11 inches, a record that’s a 20 feet increase than the next in line. She then set the shot put record the following year when she threw for 41 feet and 3 and 1/2 inches in the high school state championship, which also made her a state champion.
Despite all the prep success, when she graduated, it still wasn’t that big of a deal to her. She took pride in her versatility by not just excelling in one sport, but making All-Region in basketball and volleyball. She took most pride in graduating as the valedictorian of her class, which was evidently a huge achievement in itself. Maybe it was because her heart wasn’t fully into it, but that would change a year later.
The impact of good coaching
“I think I started loving track my sophomore year,” Wells said. “Around the time Coach Page first got here.”
Ricardo Page, the assistant coach to throwers and vertical jumpers, began coaching at Georgia State in 2014. In only three years, he has made more than a lasting impression on Wells.
“Coach Page is like my dad,” Wells said. “I love that man so much. He’s done so much for me.”
Wells’ love for her coach is understandable. It wasn’t until Coach Page got here that Wells’ started breaking not only Georgia State records, but Sun Belt records as well. It was Coach Page that made her believe that she could be a force to be reckoned with. He’s been the biggest advantage to her throwing career, and the tutelage and love extends off the field.
“He’s made so many sacrifices for all of us. He was about to miss his first daughter’s birth for a track meet,” Wells said. “Like anytime I’m going through personal stuff, before I even call my mom, I talk to him. He lets me know if I’m right or even when I’m wrong. I trust in everything he says.”
Coach Page has been so influential to Wells’ life, he even has her thinking about coaching after graduation, and she knows precisely who she wants to coach under too.
“I want his job. I want Coach Page to teach me how to coach,” Wells said. “I want to learn his coaching technique. I was throwing 50 meters in hammer, and within a year I was throwing 59, that’s a whole lot. Plus for him to be coaching all girls is stressful, and if you can deal with a whole bunch of women, you can be the best coach in the world.”
The final chapter
Before Wells can even entertain her coaching aspirations, she’s focused on more pressing matters. This outdoor season will be her last. Her tremendous career is nearly at its end, and the thought of it makes her almost tear up.
“I’m trying not to cry thinking about it,” Wells admitted. “But honestly, I’ve already done all the crying and tears thing.”
It is a sad reality. Wells’ storied career is in its final chapter. It’s bittersweet for Wells, but she’s very proud of everything she has done so far. However, there is one glaring absence in her resume that has all her focus this go around.
“My last throw will be in Oregon at Nationals,” Wells said. “I’m claiming it now. Nationals is all I’m worried about. That’s when I need everything to be on perfect, and hopefully become a two-time All-American.”
A high school championship, numerous Sun Belt Conference championships, broken records on both levels, All-American distinction, and hopefully a national championship to top it all off; that’s how Wells wants to leave Georgia State. Concerning Georgia State history, Wells wants to be remembered in her own special way.
“I want to be remembered as the girl who could throw with the pretty eyebrows and lashes.” Wells said.
If you ever watched Wells throw it would make sense. She always throws in a full face of makeup, and it’s become sort of a ritual. She started wearing lashes the summer before her sophomore year, and she says it just grew on her. It’s so synonymous with her that even opposing schools know her by this look.
“I literally can’t compete without them,” Wells said. “Before the indoor conference championship, I made my coach get up, early in the morning, by the way, just to take me to the beauty supply store. And he took me because he knows I can’t throw without my lashes.”
LaPorscha Wells will go down in Georgia State folklore. She’s a success story of the highest order. She’s a six-time Sun Belt Conference champion, the highest number in Georgia State history, and still has one full season to go. She’s a ten-time All-Sun Belt honoree, also topping Georgia State’s record. She was named an All-American, becoming the first one in Georgia State’s track and field history. She is the 2017 Panther of the Year, holding the title of the best athlete. She is the girl who can throw with the pretty eyebrows and lashes. She is also one last thing: the greatest track and field student-athlete in Georgia State history. She’s the “G.O.A.T.”
And that has the best ring to it.
Wells Regarded: Timeline
- 2013 GHSA 2A shot put champion
- 2014 Breaks first school record in the hammer throw with a distance of 50.72m
- 2015 Outdoor Sun Belt Conference Track & Field Most Outstanding Field Performer
- 2016 Indoor Sun Belt Conference Track & Field Most Outstanding Field Performer
- 2017 Indoor Track & Field All-American in the weight throw